Bad Writing Advice for Amateurs and How to Ignore It

I know a lot of writers. Most of them, I’d say 99.9%, are hard working ordinary people who honestly want to help new writers understand the business and get a firm, confident start in the profession and the field of publishing.

And then there are the handful of jerks who do nothing but put up obstacles.

Fortunately, there aren’t many of these jerks, but they do exist. So I want to give a sort of primer for new writers and what to look for and what to avoid when you are approaching professional and established writers for advice.

First, please ignore any writerly advice that says there is only one way to write. I see many blogs from writers who insist you have to do this or do that everyday in a particular fashion or you will never be successful. Now standing outside that advice and viewing it with a jaundiced eye immediately reveals why this advice is so bad. Writing is not one thing. It’s not like heart surgery where you have a  specific protocol to follow. Writing is art. It’s energy. It’s organic. There is no right way to write. Whatever works for you, whatever you feel comfortable with is fine. Trust me on this. It’s fine. Just keep writing, find a comfort zone that works for you, and write. You will be okay. It takes practice and patience, but you will be okay.

I remember attending a con where a professional writer told an audience of new writers she spent $5,000 preparing to attend the World Science Fiction Convention so she could talk to editors and agents. Then she told the audience, “And you have to do the same thing if you want to succeed in this business.” Now this is pure garbage and many of us spoke up and said so. But I can’t help but fear how many people in the audience who wanted to get into the business believed her gabble. Or the other writer who told another audience she and ONLY she took the right classes in college you HAD to take to become a successful writer, and if you didn’t you would probably fail, or by extension never be as good as she was. Or another writer who did nothing but put down e-books, or the one who did nothing but put down print, or the one who put down certain genres. Come on. Come on.

That is not helpful. That is not helping. And I would further argue it limits the people who might be interested in joining the genre if they see people like that and the “advice” they have to offer.

And this ignorant advice goes on and on ad nauseam. I see it all the time. I hope none of these people are teachers in the classroom. I shudder to think of the damage they can do. Even though these people are a very small minority in the community it seems like we hear them all the time because they are so vocal.

I think the problem bad advice writers fall into is they find a method that works for them and immediately believe their method will work for everyone. I think we can easily see why this belief is so very, very bad. People are not carbon copies of one another. We’re not ants. What works for one writer may not work for another. You have to find your own sweet spot and be willing to adopt new techniques and adapt to changing external and internal forces. You can do this. All writers throughout the centuries have done it. Trust me on this one. You can do it.

And to show you I am not completely partisan the same goes for this essay. Take what you will from it if you find anything helpful and try to incorporate it into your writing plan. If you don’t see anything useful, please feel free to ignore what I am saying. Why? Because writing is not one specific thing. It’s different for everyone. That includes you, me, and every other writer working the field.

The next thing that really bothers me as an ex-teacher is when I see puffed up writers telling new/beginning writers “Yeah, you’re starting out and that’s fine, but be aware anything you write is by extension pure crap compared to my ability as an established, and published, professional.”

It is evident that someone who says something like this has never been in a classroom. They have also never grown up in a family where you are told “You will never amount to anything. And that stupid dream you have of being a writer? Pfft.” I have never viewed the “your beginning stories are crap” advice as nothing but outright cruelty.

I am willing to bet your stories are not crap. They are probably pretty good for your current talent level. And you know the best thing about writing? The longer you do it the better you get. The more you learn, the more you are able to integrate, the more you are able to understand about process and theory, the whole nine yards. You never stop learning when you write. So please just ignore those people who tell you there is only one way to write, or your first stories are nothing but total garbage. Writing is hard enough without these uncaring jackasses trying to demean you.Ignore the haters and keep writing. You will be successful!

Find writers you respect and ask them for advice. If it seems like there are elements to their method you can use, then use them! Talk to other writers and shape and adapt their methods to yours by piecemeal. Eventually you will develop your own method for writing and if you keep at it you will be successful.

And, please, please, please, ignore the jerks who say what you write is by default crap because you’re only an amateur. That’s not helpful and that’s not teaching. That’s just shitting on you and writing, like life, is hard enough without having to go through that.

Keep writing and good luck. I know you can do it. I know you can.

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4 Comments

  1. Excellent advice, my friend, especially about the first stories you write. Out of the first four short stories I wrote, only one didn’t get picked up by a market. There’s been a lot of this harrassment going on lately, and I’m really bothered by it. NO ONE has the right to tell anyone their work is crap. EVER.

    Don’t worry, the Universe has a plan for those who do. 🙂

    Reply
    • I don’t like the harassment, either, and I don’t understand it, especially from professionals who should know from experience how hard this profession is anyway. I just don’t get the dumping on beginning writers. I don’t understand it at all.

      Reply
  2. Excellent post!

    Reply

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